Shroud of Despondency – Pine (Self-Released)

Monday, 25th March 2013
Rating: 7.5/10

Sure to be given the Cascadian black metal tag based on sound and album cover appearance alone (wooded areas are so en vogue right now), Wisconsin’s Shroud of Despondency have popped out their third full-length in 12 months, with the latest being Pine. The band’s sound is a literal extension of the acoustic-bred black metal that Agalloch has come to popularize, albeit Shroud plays it much more heavy-handed than their northwestern neighbors. And for a self-released effort, Pine certainly can hang with those that are signed.

Not counting the outwardly weird closing strands of “Light Words, Dark Graves” (which sounds like a stoned-out rant that is rather quite silly), Shroud’s feral sonic ambush rolls along swiftly over the duration of the album’s 11 songs. For the most part, Shroud seems content to dip into the very deep Cascadian black metal riff pool, to sound effect on “Overshadow” and the excellent “Wanderlust (Moist Soil),” which contains some mournful harmonies.

It’s probably a good thing the production job doesn’t come close to pristine levels on Pine, as the scathing and frenetic portions of “Half Open Gates” and “Nameless End” would have limited effect. New vocalist Ron Blemberg stays in harsh-mode throughout, offering up a direct line to the Scandinavian vocal styles that Shroud no doubt takes numerous cues from. Point being, it was probably a smart move to not embed any emotional and/or sappy clean vocals into the album…it really would have sounded contrived.

As evidenced by the productive output and overall high-quality nature of their recordings, Shroud of Despondency shouldn’t be among the unsigned ranks for very long. While they might have hitched their wagon a smidge too late the Cascadian BM movement, there’s enough good ideas on Pine to show that the band will eventually be able to mature into something far beyond what they’re doing now.

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